The working world offers plenty of opportunities for fear and trepidation. But few experiences in that world inspire more anxiety than the job interview. And for good reason. Candidates offer themselves up for judgment, most often by a person or group of people they are meeting for the first time.
Today’s job interview process is perhaps more arduous than ever. Interviews often involve multiple rounds, brain teasers, and thought exercises, all to assess a candidate’s intellectual acumen and “culture fit.”
Yet as we enter an era where machines are increasingly capable of accomplishing the tasks we normally associate with knowledge workers, employers must aim to hire hearts—people who demonstrate creativity, passion, and an openness to collaboration—instead of heads or hands.
As we adapt to these changes, so too must our recruiting and interview processes. At a time when applicants are increasingly seeking meaning and purpose in their work, how we interview jobs candidates matters more than ever. The interview is a crucial first step to building the kind of connections with potential employees that will ultimately help create a sustainable business.
Interviews offer employers a unique chance to establish a two-way dialogue with applicants that is based on integrity and transparency. Just as hiring managers have likely examined a candidate’s Facebook and other social media profiles prior to an interview, applicants have probably prepared for the meeting by perusing the company’s Glassdoor reviews and by speaking with any current or former employees they may know. Effective interviewers can take advantage of this by encouraging applicants to ask tough questions and by providing honest answers. By replacing typical “describe yourself” questions with ones that encourage candidates to reflect on their values and what matters most to them about their work, hiring managers can get a glimpse of what a candidate is like beyond the surface.
Transparency goes beyond the interview questions. At BNY Mellon, which received a Candidates’ Choice Award as part of Glassdoor’s 2016 Best Places to Interview ranking, candidates are given preparation advice and even some of the actual interview questions prior to the main event.
What You Measure Is What You Get
We’ve all experienced that kind of interview, where you’ve spent weeks researching the company, triple-checked your resume, carefully pressed your clothes, and arrived 30 minutes early, only to collapse at the second question: How many 747s could you fit on the island of Manhattan?
There’s an old adage in the business world that what you measure is what you get. In some industries, an applicant’s ability to remain composed or think on the fly might be paramount. At the same time, interviewers may end up asking questions that fail to measure what it is an employer truly needs from a worker. If your business is built on exemplary customer service, for example, a question about a candidate’s biggest weakness may be less relevant than one that is aimed at discerning a candidate’s feelings about conflict.
Google recommends asking targeted behavioral questions, like “Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team?” Sure, everyone wants a coworker that they can have a beer with, but it’s more likely that you’ll face a tough business decision or an otherwise tense moment with this person and you’ll need to have a colleague you know you can rely on to weather the storm. Use the interview as a time to measure with these conditions in mind, instead of just around how tolerable they might be outside of the office.
Building a Connection
Interviews should be an opportunity for employers and candidates to understand what really matters beyond the paycheck and amount of vacation days allotted per year. Despite the high stakes and anxiety involved in these meetings, they offer a chance to have a real conversation about a candidate’s and an employer’s principles and beliefs. Interviews should do more than simply explain the requirements of the open role. They should focus on the company’s mission and deepest-held values. Candidates should be given the opportunity to discuss what the position really means to them beyond office perks and the paycheck. At Southwest Airlines—which, despite recent setbacks, is known for its positive employee culture—the hiring mentality isn’t “we’ll know it when we see it,” it’s “does this person already live the way we do?” This requires an interview conversation that goes deeper than simply asking, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”